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Summers Discusses Allston Houses, Expanding College

By Elisabeth S. Theodore, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard may consider increasing the size of its student body to accommodate more international students, but any plans to make space for more undergraduates in Allston remain in the earliest stages of discussion, University President Lawrence H. Summers said in an interview Friday.

The comments marked Summers’ first response to reports that Harvard’s top administrators and deans have considered a plan for a new Allston campus that would put undergraduate housing and science across the river.

Summers would neither confirm nor deny details of a Crimson report that he and the University’s deans reviewed the most concrete set of options yet for the new campus at a meeting this summer.

Summers did caution that no decisions have been made, rejecting the term “plan” to describe what was presented at the July deans’ retreat.

The proposal—which sources at the meeting said was well-received by Summers and the deans—would make Allston the home of the School of Public Health, the Graduate School of Education, science from the Medical School and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), and some graduate and undergraduate housing.

Summers said Friday that sometime this fall, Harvard will publicly “narrow the range of issues that we’ll be exploring.”

“We’re going to say something about what issues people perceive as important to focus on in the future,” he said. “We certainly won’t be making any decisions this fall about what we will or will not have.”

Summers said that the question of undergraduate housing in Allston is particularly up in the air. The plan discussed at the July 15 meeting proposed either building additional Houses or transplanting the three Houses currently in the Quad.

Summers did confirm that putting undergrads across the river—which planners say would integrate Cambridge and Allston—was an element considered for the new campus at the deans’ meeting.

Summers is said to have expressed interest in building a 13th house—a difficult if not impossible undertaking in space-tight Cambridge.

He said Friday that he was interested in eventually increasing the number of international students who attend Harvard—a move that would require an expansion of the student body if the number of American students were to stay the same.

“If you think about the long-term future of the College, there are many issues, including the rising number of talented students each year, and the greater attraction of Harvard to international students and the greater importance for Harvard of having international students,” he said.

Last year 492 of the College’s 6,649 students hailed from foreign countries. At the University as a whole, international enrollment has been rising steadily for the past five years.

Though Summers would not say when any potential increase in undergraduate population might occur—and thus when any new House might be constructed—he implied it was unlikely to happen anytime soon.

“I don’t do hypotheticals, but I think there’s no question that our priority now has to be on increasing student-faculty contact,” he said. “That means raising the number of faculty relative to students—that’s our priority for the next decade.”

When he took office last year, Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby pledged to increase the size of the faculty by 10 percent over the next 10 years.

Summers said a second option for undergraduate housing in Allston—building three Houses to replace those currently in the Radcliffe Quad—also would require far more discussion.

“I have heard people say that it would make a more integrated campus, a more integrated Harvard Square area,” he said. “But whether that’s a good idea or not a good idea—at this point there are certainly many, many questions of cost associated with it.”

Moving the Quad was a possibility discussed by the University Physical Planning Committee, the Allston planning group that presidential adviser Dennis F. Thompson led. That committee considered land adjacent to the river where College athletic buildings are currently situated as a possible location for new Houses.

Though the announcement this fall may not address the question of undergraduate housing, it is likely to kick-off an intensified debate on the equally thorny question of what sciences could be built in Allston.

David A. Zewinski ’76, a FAS planner, has said that life sciences will likely move, and Summers himself, though publicly noncommittal, questioned Friday whether there is space for FAS science to expand in Cambridge.

Asked whether some FAS science would inevitably have to move to Allston, he said, “I do think there are very important long-run issues for the University to ensure we have very substantial space for science building and scientific laboratory space, and we need to recognize the realities of the planning.”

Once a “focus” is announced this fall, Summers said, Harvard will be able to undertake more extensive financial, architectural and academic analyses of the viability of moving any specific part of the University.

—Staff writer Elisabeth S. Theodore can be reached at

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